Thinking About a Technical Solution to Coordination Problems
I was just reading an article online, and one of the comments mentioned a political issue (the legality of corporate contributions to political campaigns). One of the responses what a comment saying “Not until we abandon this mentality, we the victims are the majority, we can take back this country, all we need to do is open our eyes and stand up.” When I saw this comment, I agreed with the sentiment—but nevertheless, I shrugged and moved on. Sure, it is an issue that I strongly believe in, and an issue on which I thought most people would agree with me—but nevertheless, there was nothing I could do about it. Sure, if everyone who agreed on this took a stand (or at least wrote a letter to their congressional representative) we could probably do something about it together—but I could only control my own actions, and in acting alone I’d only be wasting my time.
That got me thinking. This isn’t the first time I’ve come across these sorts of issues. At its heart, this is a coordination problem—lots of people want to do something, but it doesn’t make sense for any individual to act unless many others do as well. We don’t have a way to solve these sorts of problems, which is quite unfortunate. Except… why can’t we have such a system?
Right now, I’m imagining a website where you get to create “causes” and also add your name to them along with a number specifying how many other supporters you’d need to see before you would be willing to take (a pre-specified) action towards the cause. What are the reasons that something like this wouldn’t work?
I fact, we do have several websites that work sort-of like this already. Kickstarter is one. The White House Petitions system is another. The first of these has been a wild success; the second, less so (as far as I understand it). So there is clearly some merit to the idea, but also some major setbacks.
What do people think of this?